February 22, 2013
Michael Hurley of CBS Boston has a column up criticizing Sam Miller's quite good piece for ESPN.com about the ascendance of WAR. It's your standard anti-sabermetric rebop. Hurley attempts to paint himself as a sensible moderate type, but make no mistake, the guy is definitely threatened by advanced metrics.
But that's not a big deal. There are a lot of people like that. What separates Hurley is this little rhetorical flourish:
The blurb on ESPN's homepage read, "After WAR helped heat up the 2012 AL MVP debate, it's now a permanent part of looking at player performance."
That's certainly a bold claim, considering it wasn't more than 65 years ago when the color of a man's skin was a determinant for selecting an MVP, and also considering Miguel Cabrera won in a landslide over Mike Trout, the man with the significantly better WAR last season.
Can someone help me out here? Is Hurley equating WAR and segregation? Does he believe they are both artifacts of their time, with one thankfully being cast into the dustbin of history and the other, hopefully, soon to be? If that's not his angle, what is it, exactly?
Whatever. If, in my own assessment of players, I've cited WAR more than a couple of times in past three years I'd be shocked, so it's not like I'm on the front lines of the WAR war. I'm a stathead sympathizer and fellow traveler but I risk hurting myself and others when I attempt to actually calculate anything.
But I think I can say this much: if WAR is eventually set aside and considered a not-particularly useful stat, it will be because another, better stat is devised to replace it, not because enough people have yelled and screamed about the folly of trying to quantify player performance in the first place.